Thanks to Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, viewers want more opinion from late-night hosts these days, Seth Meyers told the New York Comic Con crowd on Friday.
Meyers, host of NBC’s “Late Night,” has been adding longer segments on topical issues that offer a sharper personal perspective on events, such as the battle over funding for Planned Parenthood.
“There’s been a shift in the last 20 years of late night,” Meyers told the packed room at New York’s Javits Center. “People want to know a host’s point of view.” He chalked it up to the success of Stewart on “The Daily Show” and Colbert’s bombastic conservative character from “The Colbert Report.”
Meyers said he was taken by surprise by the strong reaction to his recent decision to shift to doing his monologue at the desk with more of a feel of “Weekend Update” from “Saturday Night Live,” where he toiled for 12 years. “I was blown away by how much attention it got because I didn’t think it was that big of a deal,” he said.
Meyers went with the traditional standup format at the beginning because he wanted to differentiate “Late Night” from his role as “Weekend Update.” He noted that there were only three weeks between his final “SNL” performance and his “Late Night” debut in February 2014.
But 18 months in, Meyers realized that his strength was working at the desk with graphics and photos to help tell the story. “Oh I’m so much better at that thing I was doing,” he said of his realization. “This is my strength.” Meyers also said he feels it helps set his opening segment apart from the monologue Jimmy Fallon delivers an hour earlier on “The Tonight Show.” “It’s nice to present something different,” he said.
Moderator Jesse David Fox of Vulture prodded Meyers about his long history of making Donald Trump jokes. Meyers rattled off a few of his favorites from his hosting gig at the 2011 White House Correspondents Dinner: “Donald Trump often appears on Fox News — and a fox often appears on his head” and “Donald Trump likes to say he’s a friend to the blacks. Unless the Blacks are a family of white people, I’m guessing he’s mistaken.”
Among other moments from the session:
- Given the chance, Meyers would dress up as a classic DC character for Comic Con, probably Green Lantern.
- Given the choice of Batman or Superman as a guest on his show, he’d opt for Batman.
- He’s proud of the IFC series “Documentary Now” he’s producing with fellow “SNL” alums Fred Armisen and Bill Hader. The episodes are parodies of famous documentaries yet there is some heart to them as well, he said.
- He likes to do a monologue rehearsal in preparation for each taping. That involves sending a P.A. around 30 Rock recruiting about 40 people. “It’s very helpful to get a sense of what works and what doesn’t,” he said. But he’s also learned it’s important to ask “How many of you are from out of the country?”
- Movies are hard. Meyers admitted he’s always struggled to write screenplays. He was struggling with a screenplay when he got the offer to do “Late Night.” He called up the studio and told them he was sending the money back. “They’re really just the hardest thing to do,” Meyers said.